David Cook. Kris Allen. Lee DeWyze. Scotty McCreery. And now, further proof that “American Idol” is a guitar-strumming white boys’ club, Phillip Phillips is our new victor.
Since Jordin Sparks took the crown in 2007, there hasn’t been another female to score enough votes to win the show. And other than Kelly Clarkson, all the previous female winners were in the house tonight, reminding us how very paltry the category is: just Carrie Underwood, who was in the audience, and Fantasia Barrino, who sang a duet with Joshua Ledet that was shocking for all the wrong reasons, which I’ll get to later.
You could say the result was surprising, in a season that was seemed skewed in favor of a female winner, especially with a quick series of eliminations early on that thinned out the boys, the use of the judges’ save on Jessica Sanchez, and mentor Jimmy Iovine actually calling out “Idol” voters as unfairly supporting good-looking male hunks. But it really wasn’t a surprise. Especially when last night, Phillip got the better original song, the only standing ovation, and the majority of the audience’s impassioned screams. And now we know, he got a majority of a record 132 million votes, as well.
It was definitely one of the better finale result shows, as these things go, and that had to be because of the seasoned talent that appeared. All the famous folks who made cameos averaged about age 60. And, I should add, all looked incredible.
A lot of attention was given to the season’s early cast-offs, like Erika Van Pelt (back to blonde) and Shannon Magrane getting a number of solo runs. All of the judges who are currently working musicians performed (while Randy kept their seats warm). And then there was Rihanna, the only celeb to perform without having anything to do with anyone else on “American Idol,” which just seemed rude.
Phillip seemed to be the winner from the start of the two hour and seven minute production. He basically opened the show tonight (after the Top 12 minus the Top 2 did an extended version of “Runaway Baby”) by duetting with John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Bad Moon Rising.” Phillip was phenomenally better duetting with a guy in a plaid shirt than he ever was with Joshua. The harmonies weren’t quite right, but there was something really cute about it. Phillip was so relaxed, and he talked between songs like he was at his own concert.
Next we got a recap of some of the more, uh, memorable audition moments, which really only served the purpose of us getting to gawk at Steven Tyler in that lovely fuchsia ladies’ suit and felt hat combo he had on the first episode. Ryan Seacrest wrapped it up by saying, seemingly directly to Jennifer Lopez, “We look forward to creating many more memories next season,” with or without you.
Joshua Ledet had the next duet, uniting Mantasia with Fantasia. They both screamed and growled their way through Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot,” but the real story here was that Fantasia’s pants didn’t have any sides. Any sides! Who dressed her? It was like a middle-aged lady’s running suit shrunk in the wash and got shredded through a deli slicer, and she still decided to wear it. Anyway, the two had a wail-off, which we never saw the end of, because they cut to commercial.
Jimmy Iovine’s gaffes for continually calling Jennifer Lopez Jessica was the subject of the next montage. I’ll watch a strung-together montage of Jimmy saying anything, honestly. This guy is hilarious.
The ladies of the top 12, all six of them, sang a medley of Chaka Khan melodies, and then Chaka herself joined them. And she, too, got in on the too-tight-bodysuit thing. I mean, it was painted onto the 59-year-old’s kind of amazing body. This is so far a winning night for the diversity of female shapes, I have to say.
Ford sponsored the next segment, a greatest hits of Ford Music Videos montage, which even included a scene from the one that Phillip was in like three months ago. Then the two finalists each gave keys to a Ford Fusion to their musical mentors—Phillip’s was his brother in law, a guitar player. Jessica’s was some guy who is a family friend and “helped her stay strong,” whatever that means. And after a lot of hugging, Ryan gave Phillip and Jessica keys to the Ford car of their choosing—which means they couldn’t possible by keys to anything yet, unless they are skeleton keys, which would be awesome.
Rihanna came out of a pyramid inside a cube and was joined by acrobats for “Where Have You Been,” which, as I mentioned earlier, just seemed sort of vain. I kept waiting for the Idols to come out and join her, maybe be the acrobats, but they never did. And tonight—the only night that I will probably ever say this—I wanted more of the Idols! I missed them!
Five finalists got to sing personally with a superstar, but it was with Skylar Laine for whom I felt the most joy that her dreams were coming true literally before my eyes. She teamed up with Reba McEntire, a singer she was compared to back during the first few weeks of the show. I need to add that Reba is 57 years old, and looked like she could be Skylar’s cool young aunt, and is all around an amazing human being.
The next video was a tour of Steven Tyler’s dressing room, which was probably the segment in the poorest taste on this show. It was populated by Playboy bunnies and he and Randy tried to speak casually about Jennifer Lopez’s new fragrance. On the other hand, there was a pet sloth. So, jury’s still out on whether this was actually a really amazing piece of film art.
Jessica Sanchez reprised her “I Will Always Love You” from the first week of finals, and was just as amazing at it.
Then the guys of the top 12 (but not Phillip) did a Neil Diamond medley, in which they were joined by—you guessed it—Neil Diamond. Somehow Colton Dixon sounded exactly right for “Coming to America,” and Joshua went off the rails riffing on “I’m a Believer.” Neil came out and did a nice sequiny step-touch through “Sweet Caroline,” and it was lovely. Age: 71.
The funniest bit of the night was a performance by the Top 12-through-3, bedecked in robes, singing a gospel version of the phonebook, as per Randy Jackson’s incessant compliment, “You could sing the phonebook.” Joshua got stuck wailing his way on the numbers 0-1-2-2, and seriously, the old adage is true for this guy—he could, and SHOULD, sing the phonebook. It’s amazing!
Jennifer Lopez did her second live performance of the season, which explains why she wasn’t in her seat for the last half hour. It was a combination of English and Spanish, some very skilled high-jumpers, with a little Yankees love thrown in.
Ryan called out the “Idol” alumni in the audience, including Lauren Alaina, Taylor Hicks, and couple Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo. Ace and Diana are called up to the stage to chat about how they’ve moved in together, when all of a sudden, Ace is on his knee, shouting out the name brand of some jewelry company that no doubt gave him a huge discount in exchange for that, and proposes to Diana! And she said yes! It was a super sweet moment that unfortunately was slightly ruined because of Ryan’s prank faux-proposal to girlfriend Julianne Hough on the show a few weeks ago. The cry wolf thing—I was prepared for it all to be a big joke. But then it turned out to be real, and it was so happy.
Hollie Cavanagh came out next with “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and just when I was thinking about how great it was back when Jordin Sparks sang this during Season 6, out she came! And once again, Hollie was completely dwarfed by whomever she shares the stage with.
The boys team got to do an extra number tonight, a medley of BeeGees songs in honor of Robin Gibb, who died this past weekend. It ended on Joshua reprising his incredible version of “To Love Somebody.” And as insane as Joshua gets at the end of a song, it was absolutely nothing compared to what came next: Jessica Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday duetting on “And I Am Telling You.” It was just the biggest most monumental thing that’s probably ever happened on this stage. Of course, I started to imagine that maybe Jennifer Hudson would come out and join them, but the stage would have probably just burst into flames or something. There was one point when Jennifer Holliday held out her “annnnnd IIIIII ammmmm” and Jessica just stood there kind of shaking her head. Even this well seasoned YouTube star knows she’s no match for that.
Aerosmith did a nice long medley, but Steven Tyler kept running up to put the mic in Joe Perry’s face, which didn’t make a lot of sense since Joe Perry is really just there to play guitar. Anyway, Steven Tyler: age 64.
Finally, Jessica and Phillip sang together. They probably waited this long because there just can’t be very many songs out there that these two should sing together. In the end, they were given a pretty good match: “Up Where We Belong,” from the 1982 film “Officer and a Gentleman.” Now, not even Elise Testone was around in 1982. So they’re really not trying to court younger viewers tonight, we get it. Anyway, the song actually worked well, since Jessica reigned in most of her big voice, and Phillip just got to sing like Joe Cocker, which he’s been doing since January anyway.
In case you were wondering if these votes were legit, a British guy with a very British name, who represents a company called Telescope, comes out to tell us that the envelope in his hand is certified, and that his company counted all 132 million votes. And if we choose to trust that what he says is true, then we can all breathe easy.
There’s no recap of last night’s performances, no analysis from Jimmy Iovine. It’s straight to “dim the lights.” And the winner is, of course, Phillip Phillips.
His eyes go wide, and he’s quickly bombarded by the other 11 contestants. Jessica’s face is hidden as she quickly scoops Phillip into a hug. There are shots of his extended family in the audience cheering and crying. Scotty McCreery is standing by with a guitar, and then hands him a trophy. A TROPHY? Since when? It’s an old-fashioned-looking silver microphone. Ryan quickly takes the trophy away and Scotty hands Phillip a guitar to sing his new victory song, “Home.”
And then it’s like nothing happened at all. He’s so low-key, Phillip seems totally unaffected by the news. But then halfway through, as sparks rain down on him from above, he starts crying. He’s still playing guitar, but soon, even that stops working. Confetti is just getting stuck in his tears. Finally, he just takes the instrument off of him, walks off stage, and right into the arms of his family.
It’s a moving moment—and one we probably wouldn’t get to experience if Jessica, the pageant pro, had won.
So, congrats Phillip. For now, I’m just going to enjoy your new single, “Home,” which is actually a very good song, and not make fun of you and your kidney stones anymore—until next year, anyway.
And that’s a wrap. If I had spent as many hours on learning about investment banking as I have on “Idol,” I might have been a millionaire by now, but wouldn’t have had half as much fun. Thanks to all the readers who went on this “Idol” trip with me this year.